This old town's filled with sin

THE BLUE MAN GROUP mimes its quirky and wildly popular act of percussion and performance art at theaters in Boston, New York and Chicago. But the troupe hasn't forgotten there's another side of the Mississippi; its fourth U.S. installation was set up in the live-entertainment capital of the West -- Las Vegas.

No big deal. Los Angeles can probably survive a dearth of bald drummers in cobalt greasepaint.

What hurts worse is the national itinerary of the hottest show on Broadway. "Monty Python's Spamalot" has played the usual must-stops of Boston, Chicago and Washington, and it will make it to lower-wattage towns such as Fort Lauderdale, Cleveland and Kansas City. Just not Los Angeles.

Why not? Medieval camp and low-ball social comedy are as beloved here as anywhere. But Vegas got to the holy grail first, with a new Spamalot theater at the Wynn Las Vegas. The noncompetition terms of the agreement call for the national tour to stay out of California, Arizona and Nevada.

After all, Las Vegas is practically a suburb of L.A., right? Catching the irreverent show at the Wynn instead of the Pantages will just require a little more effort -- like a $200 hotel room and a 10-hour round-trip drive through Victorville, Barstow and Zzyzzx, on top of the $80 minimum ticket. And since you're there already, you might as well get seats to the new Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show, lose some change at the slots and catch Blue Man Group at the Venetian.

Los Angeles hasn't exactly fallen off the live-entertainment map, but it has been hurt by the latest truism in show biz: If you build it, they will play. Wynn will spend millions to construct a 1,600-seat theater for "Spamalot."

It's all part of the Vegas plan to rid the Strip of the last vestiges of $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffets and instead focus on a spiffier clientele attracted to gourmet dining, private art galleries and the biggest in brand-name entertainment. As a result, other Broadway shows are going the route of limited national tour, or none at all, to get that spot in Vegas -- though they generally have to shorten their performances so that deep-pocket theatergoers have more time to gamble.

L.A. is still the pop culture capital of the world. It can cede Vegas a few shows. But as soon as Sin City starts hosting pro surfing competitions, that's where we're drawing the line.

For The Record Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 01, 2006 Home Edition California Part B Page 12 Editorial Pages Desk 0 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction Las Vegas: An editorial Saturday about live entertainment in Las Vegas referred to Zzyzzx, a California town east of Barstow. The town is Zzyzx.
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